Disposing of Hazardous Household Chemicals

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Even green households sometimes have something hazardous lying around. Motor oil from your latest oil change, leftover oil based paint, coolant, brake fluid, even car batteries. It only takes one gallon of improperly disposed of oil to contaminate a million gallons of groundwater! That’s why it’s necessary to be very careful about the way we dispose of hazardous household waste.

Most communities have recycling programs and rules for hazardous waste disposal. Some have special pick ups, and some do not. Some make it downright inconvenient for you to do the right thing. Here are some tips on how to do the best you can to avoid creating problems and when dealing with chemicals and waste that you just can’t toss in the garbage or pour down the drain.

- Before you buy chemicals for cleaning your home or treating your lawn, always look for safer alternatives or use homemade, natural alternatives. You can kill weeds with vinegar or boiling water. You can get rid of lime build up around your sink with vinegar too. Many companies make safer pesticides to use in the gardens.
- Read the labels and follow directions for proper use and disposal.
- Do everything you can to store dangerous products away from children and pets.
- Try to use up the product so that none ends up in a landfill or who-knows-where.
- Never dump used motor oil. Take it to your recycling center instead. Same with car batteries.
- Don’t burn hazardous chemicals.

Here are some hints for specific situations:

Motor oil – When changing your oil, allow it to drain completely – overnight if necessary. You can take this to an oil change shop, which depending on where you live, might be required to take it from you for proper disposal or recycling for other uses.

Coolant – Drain your radiator coolant into a pan and then flush your system with water, letting that drain into a pan as well. Some shops have coolant recycling machines, and they may let you drop off your old coolant (use old, clean milk jugs for transport). You must be sure to use a clean pan, funnel and jugs to bring your old coolant to the shop though. If it’s at all dirty, it cannot be recycled.

Oil Based Paint – Allow it to dry out and then dispose of it as hazardous waste.

Car Batteries – Car batteries are recyclable, and often when you buy a new battery, the shop you buy it from will take your old one for recycling (there may be a small fee). If they don’t recycle them, you will need to find out how your city or county recommends that you dispose of them, and then follow their directions so you don’t have to dispose of it improperly or illegally.

The first step to keeping your hazardous household waste from being improperly or dangerously disposed of is to reduce the amount of hazardous agents you use. Once you’ve done that, make sure you follow directions for disposal carefully.

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